Red Hot Chili Peppers at Marlay Park, Dublin on June 29th, 2022
“Do you see that fucking rainbow?” Flea calls out to the crowd. Like the Pied Piper, Frusciante’s guitar sings out into the recesses of Marlay Park, immediately luring in any stragglers to the stage. Frusciante took a hiatus from Red Hot Chili Peppers for a decade, and returned in 2019 to begin work on their latest album ‘Unlimited Love’. You’d be forgiven for assuming the title is dedicated to warmth around his return: the evening itself in many ways feels like a tribute to the guitarist.
Frusciante and Flea kick off the night with a thrilling guitar duet that serves to whet the appetite for the musical feast to come. This opening jam leads seamlessly into the unmistakable guitar intro of ‘Can’t Stop’, sweeping us along in nostalgic euphoria harking back to its 2002 release in their album ‘By The Way’.
Fans soak up two more big singles, ‘Dani California’ and ‘Universally Speaking’, before being treated to the first song of the night from the newest album, ‘These Are The Ways’. This brings the tempo back a notch and allows the crowd effortlessly back to the present moment. In interview, Kiedis has said this song is about taking stock, looking at who we are now, (I use the term ‘we’ loosely as he’s referring to the US) and assessing it without judgement. It’s a mature moment for a band that started out performing with only socks on their privates, but then that was forty years ago.
The lull of introspection doesn’t last long, with the following hits taking the crowd along for the crazy ride that is the vocal acrobatics of Kiedis. They’re crammed with the fast-paced, super-speed lyrics that nobody does quite like the Chili’s frontman. He’s not always pitch perfect throughout the set, but if you’re looking for perfection go buy a record, that is not what a RHCP gig is about.
At its peak, what the gig can feel like is that you somehow sneaked into the band’s private rehearsal session. They jam on stage in a way that feels authentic and new, as if no two performances would ever be the same, making the audience part of their creative process. This, alongside how much they clearly still enjoy what they do, means despite the longevity there’s an of-the-moment feel.
How long this band has been about is more obvious from the crowd than the band themselves. Whilst pensioners seem to have quite the penchant for funky alt-rock, Marlay Park hosts an eclectic mix of groupies hanging on every note, with every age bracket from zero to one hundred seemingly represented.
Undoubtedly, though, the most welcome demographic is what the band called the “Irish Weirdo” – whom Flea says he loves, also claiming drummer Chad Smith is 155% Irish – before bounding into ‘Nobody Weird Like Me’.
The most crisp vocal performance of the night comes to us via ‘Black Summer’, the lead single for ‘Unlimited Love’. This may be because of the chatter caused at the time of its release around Kiedis apparently singing with an accent, or simply because the lilting tune is a bit of a departure from the RHCP catalogue, and brings out yet another side to the often surprising vocalist. Whatever the reason, it worked.
Before the night’s end we are treated to epic hits ‘By the Way’, ‘Californication’ and ‘Give it Away’, but despite the melee of madness these guys cook up, and a suitable encore served, the crowd finished the night calling for the unattainable ‘one more…’
Highlights of the night are the consistent brilliance of Frusciante punctuating each tune throughout; the joy of the old fashioned jam that erupts constantly between him and Flea; the psychedelic dreamyness of the RHCP magnified by its representation on the screens through trippy visuals; and the true to form charisma that Kiedis generously provides.
Was it the RHCP’s at their most manic, effervescent, best? Perhaps not. But there’s more than enough fresh and interesting here to put aside any suggestions that RHCP are just a nostalgia act.